Hartford Battle to 1-1 Draw With Orange County SC
A physical battle on Saturday afternoon saw the two teams split the points at Trinity Health Stadium.
After 11 yellow cards, 27 combined shots and over 13 minutes of stoppage time, Hartford Athletic were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at home vs. Orange County SC on Saturday afternoon.
Both sides came into Saturday’s match in search of their first win and will continue the search after splitting the points at Trinity Health Stadium.
The game marked the return of both Tristan Hodge and Kyle Edwards from international duty, both of whom would make an impact in the game for Hartford. Hodge started and played the full 90 minutes in the backline, while Edwards would check in in the closing stages of the first half and assist the home side’s lone goal.
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The match also served as a homecoming for Orange County SC goalkeeper Cody Cropper, who spent time with both the New England Revolution and Hartford Athletic between 2016-2019.
The action started for the visitors in the sixth minute when Hartford’s Kaveh Rad picked up the first booking of the match following a late foul just outside the box. 2022 USL Golden Boot winner Milan Iloski curled the resulting free kick over the wall and into the near post for his second goal of the season, beating Richard Sánchez to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead inside seven minutes.
It was the third time this season that the Green and Blue had given up the opening goal in the first 25 minutes, a surprise that set the team back for the next 15 minutes according to Hartford head coach Tab Ramos.
“I felt the team was ready [for the game] and we gave up a goal right away, and I think that kind of shocked everybody,” Hartford head coach Tab Ramos said after the match. “I could tell for the next 15 minutes that the team just wasn’t the same at all. We looked probably the worst we’ve looked so far for the next 15-20 minutes after we gave up that goal.”
Despite this, Hartford would continue to rally. Their best chance of the half would come in the 34th minute when Jeciel Cedeño would send an inswinger into the six-yard box to the oncoming Prince Saydee. Saydee lunged at the ball from close range but was unable to direct his touch goalward.
Eventually, in the 38th minute, Ramos elected to make the first change of the night on offense. Kyle Edwards entered the game for the first time since returning from international duty, and from here Hartford came to life.
In the final five minutes of the half, Hartford completely flipped the script dominating the attacking possession through the closing minutes and creating a plethora of chances. The Green and Blue forced multiple sharp saves from Cody Cropper to preserve the narrow lead.
The breakthrough would eventually come for the home side in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time in the first half. Antoine Hoppenot cruised past a defender, sending a cross in from the right side to the head of Kyle Edwards. The substitute flicked the header to Elvish Amoh on the edge of the box, who snuck the ball past Cropper from close range to level the game at one. It was the final action of the half and the first goal at Trinity Health Stadium for Hartford in 2023.
Coming out of halftime, it was once again the visitors who would up the tempo. Straight off the kickoff, a ball would sneak through to the feet of an Orange County attacker through on goal. Richard Sánchez, however, was quick to sprint off his line and shut down the two-on-one opportunity before the visitors could even get a shot off.
Orange County had a golden opportunity once again just fifteen minutes later, as a misguided Sánchez clearance found the feet of Iloski. Iloski found Emil Nielson, who took the ball behind Sánchez and set a shot at the open net. Luckily for Hartford, Danny Barrera was able to track back and clear the ball off the goalline, preventing a disastrous mistake from culminating in a go-ahead goal for the visitors.
Hartford’s defense was able to weather the storm for the first 15 minutes of the half, before once again stepping onto the front foot on the attack. Despite forcing Orange County to step up defensively in the closing stages and outshooting them 17-10 on the afternoon, the home side could not find the breakthrough in the second half.
The draw didn’t come without a fight from both squads. An extremely physical second half saw 10 yellow cards issued and nine minutes of stoppage time added to the end of the half, but it wasn’t enough for either side to come away with the win.
“I know that we created some chances and we should’ve done better…I felt like today was a game we needed to win,” Ramos said. “I can’t help but feel disappointed. One point is better than getting no points obviously, but I think we were coming in with the confidence of getting three [points] and were not thinking about anything else. We realize in a game, anything can happen, but even though we gave up that goal early, I felt that we had enough to turn the game around and win it, but unfortunately we couldn’t do it.”
It will be a quick turnaround for Hartford, who are set to host Lansdowne Yonkers FC in the US Open Cup on Tuesday before heading off on a month-long road trip. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Trinity Health Stadium on ESPN+.